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AF presents Fisher House award to TAPS

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James stands with, from left, John Wood, chairman of the TAPS board; David Coker, president of the Fisher House Foundation; Bonnie Carroll, founder of TAPS; Brian Gawe, vice president for Fisher House community relations; and TAPS member Ellen Andrews. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James stands with, from left, John Wood, the chairman of the TAPS board; David Coker, the president of the Fisher House Foundation; Bonnie Carroll, the founder of TAPS; Brian Gawe, the vice president for Fisher House community relations; and TAPS member Ellen Andrews. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James congratulates Bonnie Carroll, the founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, during a ceremony honoring Carroll with the Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award in the Pentagon, Dec. 1, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James congratulates Bonnie Carroll, the founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, during a ceremony honoring Carroll with the Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award in the Pentagon Dec. 1, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, center, congratulates Bonnie Carroll, the founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, during a ceremony honoring Carroll with the Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award in the Pentagon, Dec. 1, 2015. With James and Carroll are TAPS members who attended the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, center, congratulates Bonnie Carroll, the founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, during a ceremony honoring Carroll with the Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award in the Pentagon Dec. 1, 2015. With James and Carroll are TAPS members who attended the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James presented the 2014 Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award to the founder and president of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors in a ceremony at the Pentagon Dec. 1.

Bonnie Carroll established TAPS in 1994 as a nonprofit, charitable organization that provides ongoing peer-based emotional support to those grieving the death of someone who died while serving in the armed forces. The organization brings survivors together with others who have experienced a similar loss for comfort, healing and hope. The program offers a 24/7 helpline, a network of volunteers and resources, quarterly publications, children and adult retreats, and more -- all of which are free to the survivor.

“For the past 11 years, TAPS has extended their arms to embrace our survivors, their children, family and friends with support, compassion and love, regardless of where or how their loved one died,” James said. “TAPS’s mission to provide ongoing peer-based emotional support to those grieving the loss of a fallen service member underwrites the sacred trust placed in the Department of Defense and the commitment to take care of our troops and their families.”

The award, established in 1996, was named in honor of Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, both of whom contributed extensively to the support and welfare of members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. The award is presented to an organization or individual who has demonstrated exceptional patriotism and humanitarian concern for members of the armed forces or their families.

“Bonnie has comforted the hearts and lifted the lives of thousands of families across the country,” James said. “Her strength and generosity are testament to the enduring human spirit. I am so fortunate, so lucky it was my turn to preside over this ceremony today and present this award to such a deserving organization and to a woman who’s very near and dear to my heart.”

Carroll said she was honored and humbled to be recognized with the award.

“This is the organization none of us wanted to be a part of, that we wish didn’t exist, but it is a family where those loved ones of our nation’s fallen heroes can find hope, comfort, support and care,” Carroll said.

“I accept this honor very humbly on behalf of what is today a magnificent organization,” she continued. “We’re so proud that you as the military have allowed us to be your shipmates, to be your teammates, to be your battle buddies. It is a beautiful partnership; it is a family affair and I am so deeply honored to accept this tremendously prestigious award on behalf of all of our families.”

The next TAPS outreach event is a survivor seminar and Good Grief Camp in Phoenix, Arizona, on Dec. 4. For more information, visit their website at www.taps.org.

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